Basic observations on demographics of Putnam fellows

I was checking out the names of the Putnam Competition fellows, found here: (The Putnam competition is an extremely difficult math competition for undergraduate math students. The median score is typically zero.)

Here are some observations:

1. There are girls in the upper rankings, but not many. Hard to tell with the Asian names, but I’d expect quite a few because Asian women dominate in female chess rankings (previously it had been Russian women). It seems to me that Asian women have a much higher average IQ than white women, compared to the difference between white and Asian males.

2. There are many, many more South and Southeast Asians than you’d expect for groups with double-digit IQ averages. This seems to be related to the long whisker on this graph (right-hand one):

Context for graph here.

3. Asians are absolutely dominating the upper rungs at MIT, but they are curiously under-represented at Harvard. See Ron Unz on anti-affirmative action for Asians at the Ivies.

4. It is extremely rare for someone to place in the top five Putnam fellows rankings who is not a student at one of the top-scoring universities (chiefly Harvard and MIT, then Princeton, Stanford, Waterloo, Caltech, etc.). So even though I hate the higher education racket with everything in me, I must admit that they are doing an excellent job of identifying extraordinary academic talent.

5. There are occasionally people who place in the top five Putnam fellows rankings who are students at relatively unknown universities. I’d argue these cases represent rare failures to identify and exploit extraordinary academic talent (perhaps one in fifty). This assumes that extraordinarily talented students would prefer to associate with prestigious universities and vice versa, which is generally the case. All such examples appear to be white males. It seems likely to me that these cases will be predominantly lazy/non-conscientious but brilliant students.

About Aeoli Pera

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